Payment Method Guide

Guide to Payment Methods

There are several payment options available to pay for Columbia-Supported Travel which must adhere to specific policies and timelines. Make sure you understand required documentation and procedures for the following:

All payment options begin with an adviser-approved FTF. Do not purchase any travel without an adviser-approved FTF.

University-issued Check

University-issued check is the preferred payment option, when possible. 

University-issued Check Purchase Procedures

  • Receive approval for an agreed upon purchase amount from group financial officers.
  • Check approved vendor list to see if the business/organization is an approved vendor. Approved vendors can use an FTF directly.
  • If the business/organization is not an approved vendor, confirm that they are interested in being a part of Columbia’s direct billing system and refer them to the group's financial officer for more details.
  • Student-group financial officer must submit an FTF requesting the payment.
  • Adviser will approve FTF request or seek further information before the request is approved.
  • Print two copies of the FTF
    • Use one FTF copy to make the purchase with the business/organization. Use the FTF as if it is a check.
    • Do not pay sales tax. If the business/organization is an approved vendor, this should not be an issue. Otherwise, use the university’s tax exempt documentation with vendors.
    • After paying with a copy of the FTF, collect the receipt.
    • Tape the receipt to a 8 1/2 by 11” paper, make a copy.
    • Submit copies of the receipt and FTF copy to the group's financial adviser.
    • Turn in the other copy of the receipt to the group's financial officers.
    • The university will mail the business/organization a check for payment.

Purchasing Card

A Purchasing Card (p-card) payment is the referred payment option when University-issued check is not an option. 

P-card Guidelines

  • P-card purchases can only be made over the phone or online.
  • The p-card cannot be used for any travel-related purchases, entertainment, or food purchases that will be eaten off campus.
  • P-cards have individual purchase and monthly spending limits that may impact the group's ability to use an adviser’s p-card.
  • Groups must communicate in advance with an adviser about using his/her p-card.
  • Before using the p-card verify with the group's adviser that the business/organization will not charge tax, and if it does, that the group understands the process for how to get the tax refunded.
  • Verify in advance how the business/organization will issue the paid receipt following the purchase. Ensure that the adviser gets a copy of the paid receipt no more than 2 business days after the purchase. Being late could result in the suspension of the student group's account.

P-card Purchase Procedures

  • Receive approval for an agreed upon purchase amount from group financial officers
  • Student-group financial officer must submit an FTF requesting the payment
  • Adviser will approve FTF request or seek further information before the request is approved
  • At least two business days before the purchase will be made schedule time to meet with group's adviser to use his/her p-card
  • Confirm with the adviser that the card will not be charged sales tax and inform them how and when a paid receipt from the vendor will be provided for the purchase
  • Meet with the adviser in his/her office at the agreed upon p-card purchase appointment time
  • The adviser will use the p-card to make a purchase either over the phone or online during the p-card purchase appointment
  • Within 2 business days of the purchase, provide the adviser with a paid receipt for the purchase

Cash/Travel Advance

A cash/travel advance is an advance of University funds (usually from a student-group account) of up to $1,500 for purchases that cannot be paid with a University-issued check or p-card.

Cash/Travel Advance Guidelines

  • The person who signs for the cash/travel advance is personally liable for the advances taken out in their name. If funds are lost, stolen, or misused, regardless of who’s at fault, the person who signed for the cash/travel advance is personally responsible for repaying the funds.
  • Only one advance per group is allowed at any given time
  • Advances are permitted at the discretion of the group's adviser
  • Advances are generally approved in instances when there is not already an approved vendor or costs are prohibitive
  • Purchase must be made with cash or debit card. If a debit card is used, the cardholder must be the same as the individual who signed for the cash advance.
  • Credit cards cannot be used to make purchases
  • University tax exempt documentation must be used so that sales tax is not charged
  • Proper documentation to request the cash/travel advance must be submitted at least 10 business days before the purchase will be made
  • If a cash/travel advance is being issued for the first time to an individual a W9 form (W8 for non-U.S. citizens) must be submitted and an additional 10 business days should be allowed for processing

Cash/Travel Advance Procedures

  • Receive approval for an agreed upon purchase amount from group financial officers
  • Student-group financial officer must submit an FTF requesting the advance
  • Adviser will approve FTF request or seek further information before the request is approved
  • Adviser will ensure understanding of responsibilities and personal liabilities of the personal cash/travel advance
  • Work with financial adviser to determine how advance will be received (mailed check, chekc pick-up, direct deposit)
  • Submit the following to the financial adviser:
    • Completed Cash/Travel Advance Agreement Form signed by adviser and cash advance holder
    • Written expected travel budget
    • FTF
  • Advance will normally be received in 10 business days

Cash/Travel Advance Reconciliation

  • Complete the reconciliation process no more than 5 business days following the purchase.
  • Complete a T&B Form documenting the way the advance was used. Remember to include only non-tax expenses.
  • Tape itemized receipts to 8 ½ x 11” paper. Do not use staples.
  • Write a check (or put cash in an envelope) for the remaining amount of the unused cash/advance.  This is the amount of the original cash/travel advance minus the amount of the totaled receipts.  
  • Submit this documentation (T&B, receipts, remaining funds, FTF) to the financial adviser.

Out of Pocket Reimbursement

Out of pocket spending and subsequent reimbursement applies to items paid for with your own money that have been pre-approved via an FTF.

Out of Pocket Reimbursement Guidelines

  • Expenses must fall within the reimbursement guidelines outlined by your governing board and general University policy
  • Reimbursement does not include sales tax, but the university’s tax exempt documentation may be used with vendors
  • Funds spent that have not been pre-approved are not guarantee to be reimbursed
  • Cash, credit, or debit cards can be used for payment
  • Reimbursement of out of pocket expenses generally takes 10 business days after the receipt of reimbursement paperwork or 20 business days if an individual is receiving reimbursement for the first time

Out of Pocket Purchase Procedures

  • Receive approval for an agreed upon purchase amount from group financial officers
  • Student-group financial officer must submit an FTF requesting the advance
  • Adviser will approve FTF request or seek further information before the request is approved
  • Make the purchase with the approved funds and keep the receipt(s). Use the university’s tax exempt documentation or sales tax will need to be paid to complete the purchase

Out of Pocket Reimbursement

  • Complete the reimbursement process no more than 5 business days following the purchase
  • Complete a T&B Form documenting the purchase. Remember to include only non-tax expense totals.
  • Tape itemized receipts to 8 ½ x 11” paper. Do not use staples.
  • Work with financial adviser to determine how advance will be received (mailed check, chekc pick-up, direct deposit)
  • Submit the following to the financial adviser:
    • Completed T&B that documents the purchase
    • Credit card/Bank statements showing the purchase (if a credit or debit card was used for payment)
    • Taped receipts
    • FTF
  • Advance will normally be received in 10 business days or 20 business days if an individual is receiving reimbursement for the first time

Divisional Travel Card Guidelines

A divisional travel card is a payment methods when other payment methods are not an option, in particular for travel and entertainment purposes.

Divisional Travel Card Guidelines

  • Work with the financial adviser to use the card
  • Individual and monthly spending limits may impact the group's ability to use the card
  • Communicate in advance with the financial adviser about how the group would like to use the card to avoid delays
  • Communicate with your financial adviser in advance about the documentation he/she may need for the particular purchase
  • Schedule a time to use the card with the financial adviser in his/her office at least 3 to 4 week prior to the date of the purchase
  • Card purchases can only be made over the phone or online
  • Verify in advance that the business/organization will not charge sales tax, and if it does, that the group understands the process for how to get the tax refunded
  • Verify in advance how the business/organization will issue the paid receipt following the purchase. Ensure that the adviser gets a copy of the paid receipt no more than 2 business days after the purchase. Being late could result in the suspension of the student group's account.

Divisional Travel Card Purchase Procedures

  • Receive approval for an agreed upon purchase amount from group financial officers
  • Seek permission from the financial adviser to use his/her card and set up a date and time 3 to 4 weeks in advance of the purchase date
  • Find out from the financial adviser what information he/she needs to make the purchase
  • Student-group financial officer must submit an FTF requesting the advance
  • Adviser will approve FTF request or seek further information before the request is approved
  • At the agreed upon card purchase appointment, bring the information the financial adviser requested and go to his/her office to use the card to make the purchase either over the phone or online.
  • Withing two days of the purchase, provide the financial adviser with a paid invoice within 2 business days

Additional Information

Completing a T&B (Travel and Business Expense Report Form)

The T&B form must be completed when reconciling a Cash/Travel Advance or when submitting for reimbursement of Out-of-Pocket expenses.

  • The name and address of the payee must match the information that was submitted on the payee's W9 form (W8 for non-U.S. citizens)
  • Overall business purpose must be clear including: What + Where + When + Why
  • Expense descriptions must be itemized:
    • List expenses chronologically
    • Use 1 line per receipt
    • Provide vendor name and general description of purchase
    • Include the names of all participants for travel or food expenses if there were less than 10 individuals in attendance.  If more than 10 people were in attendance indicate the total number of people, names are not needed.
    • Separate total amount of receipt into the unsegregated columns except for flowers, gifts, etc.
    • Do not include tax, unless the purchase was made from a state on the “States Not Allowing Tax Exemption” list
    • If credit/debit card purchase, include copy of credit card/bank statement, with the cardholder's name printed on it
    • Tape (not staple) receipts to 8 ½ x 11” paper for submission to financial adviser
    • Retain a copy of all receipts and the T&B Expense Report submitted for reimbursement
    • Submit all documentation directly to the financial adviser, including a copy of the adviser-approved FTF

Reimbursement Submission Time Limit

  • Reimbursements should be submitted within 5 days after the expense has been incurred or within 5 days after return from a trip
  • Requests for reimbursement must be submitted to the financial adviser within 120 days from the date the expenses were incurred, or the end of the University’s fiscal year on June 30th, depending on which comes first. Expenses will not be reimbursed if they are not submitted within 120 days or at the fiscal year end.

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